DETROIT — Hampered by a 10.4% decline in new car sales by industry leader General Motors, domestic new auto sales fell 1.3% in mid-August, U.S. auto makers reported Monday.
All of the other domestic manufacturers except American Motors reported sales gains for the period. In all, the seven U.S. auto makers said they sold 200,282 new cars in the Aug. 11-20 period, compared to the 180,446 units sold in the same period a year ago.
The total number of cars sold during the period went up because there were nine selling days in the period this year, compared to eight selling days in the comparable 10-day period of 1985. But the overall year-to-year comparisons showed a decrease because they are based on a daily sales rate.
The most recent period marked the second consecutive sales decline by GM, while its main domestic competitors, Ford and Chrysler, have posted increases. Ford said its sales were up 20.3%, and Chrysler reported a 10.1% gain.
"Overall sales were pretty good except for GM," said David Healy, an industry analyst with Drexel Burnham Lambert.
Share of Domestic Market
GM's share of the domestic market fell to 53.5% from 58.9% in the year-ago period, while Ford claimed 26.9%, up from 22.1%, and Chrysler held 15.7% in mid-August, compared to 14.1% in the 1985 period.
"It's the second 10-day period where GM's share of the industry has been below normal, but I don't think it's time to push the panic button," Healy said. He added, however, that if GM's sales do not pick up, he expects the No. 1 auto maker to either sweeten its incentive programs or cut production to prevent bulging inventories.
Among the smaller manufacturers, AMC said its sales were off 53.8%, American Honda posted a scant 0.8% gain and Volkswagen U.S. said its sales were up 11.2%.
Nissan U.S., which recently resumed production at its Smyrna, Tenn., plant after a shutdown for retooling, did not release its sales.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S.-built new cars sold at an annual rate of 7.8 million in mid-August, down slightly from the 7.9-million rate posted in the same period last year.
Percentage changes in auto sales for the second 10 days of August are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. There were nine selling days in the 1986 period and eight selling days in the year-ago period.
Aug. 11-20 Aug. 11-20 % 10-Day 1986 1985 change GM 107,163 106,333 -10.4 Ford 53,935 39,865 +20.3 Chrysler 31,388 25,348 +10.1 AMC* 1,400 2,700 -53.8 VW U.S. 2,242 1,793 +11.2 Honda U.S. 4,154 3,663 +0.8 Nissan U.S. N.A. 744 ------ TOTAL 200,282 180,446 -1.3
Los Angeles Times